justLISTEN! Destination: World Domination

Words by Ryan Mitchell
Photography by Jarvis Ho
Check out more at the ILL-Legitimiate WEBSITE

ILL-Legitimate are hip hoppers that don’t “concern themselves with the mainstream”. Producing beats and spreading their music, they live and breathe the culture every day. ILL-Legitimate has a down-to-earth view on music, whether it’s the music they listen to, or the music they produce. Chronic Sythe, DJ Booz, Copasetic, Anonymouz, Nicky Scarfo make up ILL-Legitimate. Present for the interview was Sythe, Booz and Copasetic, and just speaking to these individuals will give you what you need to infer their passion for the music.

S: Chronic Sythe
B: DJ Booz
C: Copasetic

Describe yourselves.

S: We are a production house. I make beats and I emcee. Booze here is the DJ. Copasetic is the illest emcee in Vancouver. Anonymouz, who is the first emcee of the group when the group started in 2003. He put out an album in 2005 and that is where it started. We got Nicky Scarfo on beats, and that’s the production house. We also have P Butta from Australia, A.O.K from Edmonton and Risskant from Holland. We think of ILL-Legitimate as an army.

What is sick about the group?

B: We all have our own unique talents and when we come together as a cohesive unit, the energy is just unreal, especially on stage. People in the industry see us and say, “you guys are so live on stage”. It is like a family of talented musicians, who just love to do music.

How would you describe your style?

C: Our style changes to match the projects we work on. Each project is unique and has its own flavour but we still have that essence of classic hip hop.

S: All the drum lines are going to be mostly classic boom bap. As for myself I’m very jazz influenced.

Why choose to locate in Vancouver?

S: I was born here and most of us are from here, minus a few of the guys that came from Italy. This is where our family is. We have been taking trips overseas to Australia and Holland. One guy would go over there and set it up. Raw Inspiration was created back in the day, before the social networking sites came up. Vancouver is really hard to break in with the hip hop scene. Rock does great here, and other music, but it is really hard for hip hop to break in.

You have a distinctive voice when covering the tracks. Was your voice something you knew would be unique? Or was it a talent a friend or relative that mentioned it to you at an early age?

S: I have been told I have a deep voice and I should do radio, but I didn’t know about that. I did not know I had a talent. My voice has evolved. If you listen to Beats Smarts and then listen to Snake Pond, which was made two years after Beat Smarts, you can tell there is a difference. If you listen to P Butta’s recent album, Entrenched, it is different. For the ILL-Legit album, I do not plan on standing still. I am always moving somewhere.

What are your songs and beats inspired from?

S: Personally, I know it sounds cliché, but it is a way of expressing myself. Some inspiration comes from everyday life and my family. For samples and beats, it is from jazz, old funk, and underground funk like Harlem Funk; I love that. Right now I am listening to Japanese music, and anything that catches my ear musically. I am striving to be the best I can be.

What is the most annoying thing in the mainstream hip hop scene right now?

C: ILL-Legitimate does not concern ourselves with mainstream hip hop, or any aspect of it.

S: We think of it as another genre, like rock

C: We concentrate on our own shit and worry about the positives, like making our music better and more accessible. We push for that emotional charge in our music and make it last.

If your house was on fire and you could only grab one thing, would it be your beats or your own vocals?

S: We could just re-record the vocals. When I make a beat and it is lost, it is lost. My equipment to make those beats, not my beats or vocals, is important. I would go in for the equipment.

What pushed you into the music scene?

S: We all just love it. We love the energy of the crowd.

C: Connecting with the hip hop heads and just being in the scene.

S: Connecting with people who love hip hop.

What would you define music as?

C: It has to be a reflection of life, whether the producer is reflecting his idea of truth and beauty, or a DJ is executing his skills and what he believes; it is the truth and precision. An emcee has to be aligned with his idea, reflecting society around him and his style. Everyone has to be in harmony with each other

B: Music is an extension of the soul. For me, I have done music my whole life, from playing guitar growing up to singing and then DJing. When I do music, I get lost in it. It feels like my soul is speaking to all the other souls in the room. You can tell when someone is feeling it and you can tell when someone is just hearing it. It feels like your soul is extending out from inside you and putting itself in front of the world.

What is the meaning behind the track Snake Pond?

S: It is a story. It is a reflection of what we see around us and dudes we see around us. A snake is an evil creature. Do not get me wrong, I like Snakes. I am not hating on snakes, they are dope creatures, but it is describing the demons or evil of humans.

How do you keep it Beat Smarts?

S: Dope beats, dope rhymes, all the time. Just because people fear you does not make you a dope emcee and just because your beats get played does not mean that you are a dope producer.

Where does the music of ILL-Legitimate come from?

B: We each have our own unique talents that we bring to the group and when we are a cohesive unit it just comes together as one masterful sound that is ILL-Legitimate. There are several different elements and each has its own style, background and where it came from, where it is at, and where it is going, but it comes together as one unit.

S: The name itself, the album that we are working on right now, is called Stitched with a Hyphen. This refers to our group. We are ‘ill’ and ‘legitimate’, the good and bad of man.

C: The duality of man. We are coming together for this album which will be all the illegitimate members together on one album.

What does Anonymouz hope to achieve touring in Europe?

S: Nicky Scarfo went out to Holland three or four years ago to work with some new cats. Anon is in Holland as we speak finishing an album he recorded there last year [in Holland], mastered it, and they are releasing it on the 29th of May. After the album is done they will tour a bit and will open for Immortal Technique, EPMD, Wutang Killa Bees and Aesop Rock. He is coming back in a month and we will start working on the ILL-Legitimate album.

Was the scene in Australia more supportive than Vancouver’s?

S: It is a hot spot for hip hop. It is a hot spot for people that love music. Everybody respects the music. The radio scene is very independent. What is being played is what people love. It is not what sells, but it ends up selling because it is always pumping.

How is ILL-Legitimate different from the average hip hop scene?

C: Everyone has their own interpretations of quality. Our own personal dedication to quality is set at a level that is more.

S: We don’t want to be accessible to just one audience. I want to be accessible to everyone.

C: You should be able to give this new album to your mother and she should be able to handle it.

B: With the skill level of the people in the group, I have never heard anybody as skilled as this group and I think that it is dedication.

C: KRS ONE quotes, “the way you break up hip hop, is the hip and the hop. You got your hip; it has got to be how in tune you are in the truth around you and the hop is how far you move it.” There are emcees that are very concerned with the hop, but don’t pay enough attention to the hip. ILL-Legitimate understands that, and that puts us on a different level than most.

What concerns you about mainstream ‘popular’ hip hop?

B: One of the concerns I have is that people say mainstream artists have no talent and I disagree. The fact of the matter is that they are going out there, they are doing their own music, they are doing what they love, and they love music. The quality level is somewhat subjective to who you are. Another concern I have is the culture that it is breeding and the influence it has on younger and younger people. It speaks about the fast life and the quick way to riches. Those kinds of things are not instilling proper values into society and do not carry that conscious message to work hard and want to be intelligent individuals. They just want to get to the top as quickly as possible without building a foundation and that is a concern that I have. These people have a large audience to speak to and they are in control of what their message is.

What is more important in a song, the beats or the lyrics?

B: Everything is equally important. The beat is what gets you into it and feel, and then the lyrics, the way that they are delivered makes it poetry. The beat is the cake and the lyrics are the icing. The flow and the delivery is so important

S: They are different things, but once you put them together, instrumental.

Has the balance between the lyrics and beats been compromised?

C: Sometimes you need to experiment, but beats have to have their own life before emcees get thrown in. A beat needs to stand on its own.

S: I would never compromise or half step

With each song, what message are you guys trying to send?

C: All of our songs have different messages. They can be interpreted in different ways. Overall, the message has to be socially responsible. There has to be a balance between entertainment, good music, and music that is useful for people to absorb knowledge from.

What is the ultimate destination for Ill-legitimate?

S: No other destination than world domination.

C: As far as business is concerned, we want to grow, bring other artists in and expand. But at the same time, we will make sure that the people brought in share the same ideals and messages that we are trying to express. We won’t compromise on music and we won’t compromise on the business side. We uphold ourselves in the highest standards, especially when it comes to music, and making sure [who we bring on] also upholds that. The key in touring is to understand where hip hop stands in those countries and how they are different.

What do you think the future has in mind for ILL-Legitimate?

S: We plan on doing a West Coast tour including Victoria, Nanaimo and Long beach in California. Anon and Nicky Scarfo are working on an Italian album and then we tour that through Italy and the rest of Europe.

C: Currently we are focused on being here in Vancouver to promote Vancouver hip hop. Expanding any influence we have of Vancouver the rest of the world.

S:Also, we’ve been branching out a bit as well. Anonymouz was featured on two tracks for the RED TAPE RENEGADES VOL 1 in Australia. Locally, I’ve also been working along side Matt Brevner on his debut album MAGNUM OPUS which is being released this month under B-Sharp Productions; which me and him started awhile back as a way to get our beats and engineering skills out.

What happens if your music starts forming cliques?

C: We want to unite them. Then we send them all out in uniforms to infiltrate government positions. That is the primary motive for ILL-Legitimate. But really our projects are so unique and so diverse. We all come from such different backgrounds. When we met, we had different influences that helped us, but the same core values about hip hop. It is the community of ILL-Legitimate

S: We are not trying to be one thing

When producing, what comes to mind when you put together samples?

S: Just get into it and start nodding your head. Sounds are everywhere and they are always in the air. They do not have to be in harmony for you to notice it.

What does HYPE mean to you?

S: ILL-Legit on stage. HYPE means liveliness; getting pumped and getting the Crown pumped too.

C: The HYPE gets you to buy the album and then the album destroys you and then you get the uniform in the mail.